Choosing Our First “Home”

by AJ Pettersen · 5 comments

One of the first big decisions married couples make is where they will live. This conversation usually includes a number of aspects, such as renting versus buying, location and price range. My fiancé and I are getting married this October and we are starting the search for the first place we will call home after we tie the knot. Our decision is based on many of the same variables that others go through, but is unique to us and the situation we are in. How are you and your future spouse discussing this topic?

Renting Versus Buying

This is probably the largest part of the decision for many couples. You buy a home and you can start to build equity. It also makes your first place really feel like your own. The market is down, so first time buyers are in a great position to buy. For my fiancé and me, buying is out of the question right now. We aren’t sure how long we will live in the city where she works, so it doesn’t make much sense to buy. She got a job an hour and a half from home out of college and we would like to live closer to family in the long run. This means renting is best for us. How long do you intend to live where you do? This is a fundamental question to talk about as a couple.

Location

While we know exactly what city we will be living in, we need to pick which part of town. Some factors that we are considering are:

  • Proximity to work/shuttle system
  • Amount of crime in the area
  • Proximity to groceries, entertainment, etc.

My fiancé is a nurse at a large hospital. It is a great position, but parking is a nightmare. Only nurses with 15 years of employment at the hospital are allowed to park during weekdays. This means getting to work can take a long time and be difficult. Right now, she takes the bus fairly consistently, but this means waking up 15-20 minutes earlier than if she were able to drive. There are a number of apartments and town home complexes within walking distance to the hospital or shuttle systems. This would mean more sleep and less hassle.

A few parts of town should be avoided because of higher crime. As a whole, the town is a safe place, but making sure we are in a quality neighborhood is very important to us.

Living near a grocery store and places of entertainment is also factoring into our decision. Saving time on driving on her days off is important to us, so we can spend more quality time together.

Price and Type of Housing

Now that we have established some things we want, we need to set a price range to start looking. Going with a small apartment will no doubt be cheaper, but will it provide sufficient space? We are looking to find a place where we can have a smaller dog as well, so having a walkout onto the ground level would be nice. I would like to have an office to continue my freelance work. The price range will be severely affected by what we deem most important in our first place.

How Are You Deciding?

You will remember the first place you call home for the rest of your life. What factors are important to you and your spouse? Your situation is unique to you as a couple. This decision is about a lot more than just money, so to take into account all the possible variables necessary before making your decision.

You may also want to check out these first time home buyer tips.

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  • Marbella says:

    Rent is always first if you do not know the area to 100%, you may find it very disturbing night noise, too much screaming children, etc. When you both have steady job and income, you can start looking a purchase homes.

  • Jean says:

    Good post. A lot of factors play into the decision of buying or renting a home for sure. A lot of people consider proximity to workplace as a prime factor but then again, if one works from home, perhaps that is not so important and they can shift their priorities to being closer to shopping and entertainment avenues or to relatives.

    But if you’re in transitionary phase of your life where your next job might be in another state for example, renting is most definitely the way to go.

    -Jean

  • Perhaps it shouldn’t be an issue of renting “versus” buying. We are a nation of homeowners and those who aspire to be homeowners. Renting usually serves as an excellent means of saving money for a larger down payment – essential to holding down financing costs on a home. Buying a home has costs that are more than the monthly mortgage payments and few first-time buyers are ready for these costs or the thirty-year impact upon their lives.
    Remember that buying a home, even in a down market; will entail large expenses for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) unless you have at least a 20% down payment. Building equity is not a good reason to buy too early since the amount of equity developed in a conventional mortgage is miniscule for the first five years. Also the tax deductions for interest payments and property taxes are simply not that great compared to the standard deduction you get for free.
    Most of all, take your time to find a home that will bring you happiness and not burden you with egregious costs. You don’t want the wrong house or the wrong neighborhood in a new home purchase if you can’t readily sell again – and in today’s market, that is the case. Find the home you can love and afford – renting allows one the time and savings to make that possible.
    I will soon have a book finished that explains these issues in detail, to be titled: “Before You Build or Buy, The Five Myths of Homeownership, and How to Save 20% on Your First Home” – a topic that is totally overlooked even though it involves the largest purchase of our lives and often a thirty-year commitment to a debt-servicing lifestyle. Buying your dream home is a wonderful thing and should be available to all Americans – do it well!

  • Finding and moving into your first home is such an exciting time for a couple! You have a great list of “must haves”, and once you get out there and start looking you’ll probably find the features you’re drawn to and the ones you can live without. Pet friendly places are likely to be more limited, but dogs add so much to your life (and are great practice children :)) it’s totally worth it!

    My husband and I lived in a little townhouse (with our new not-so-small puppy) when we were first married, and bought our first house a couple of years later. I still get nostalgic about those times and have to drive a little out of my way every now and then to go past our first official home.

  • Patty says:

    Visit potential neighborhoods during the day, evening and weekends. This should help you decide if it is too loud, the neighborhood has a nice mix of individuals, ages, income levels and how many kids there are. Kids=noise so if fiance is doing shift work loud kid next door leads to less sleep.

    Viewing neighborhoods also tells you if it is stable, going up in value or down in value.

    Don’ believe the hype of a neighborhood. Look for construction, new developments and area planning counsel to see what they envision their city to look like.

    Good luck

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